Apologies for this being a long post. I tried to condense it, but then thought ‘bahh, fuck it, let em’ read’.
Saturday was the International Day of Suicide Survivors.
When I first heard the term ‘suicide survivor’, I figured it was used to describe someone who had failed suicide, y’know, took shit-loads of pills, but clearly not enough, or totally missed when they drew the gun to their head, and instead shot down the vase of flowers on the table next to them.
‘Surviving’ a suicide means something completely different.
A suicide survivor is an individual who has lost someone they loved to suicide. It is estimated that every suicide leaves 6-8 ‘survivors’.
I am a suicide survivor.
I became one 12 years ago.
I spent approximately 10 years of the 12 pretending that I wasn’t a suicide survivor. I achieved this by shutting off the part of me that would experience the hurt, betrayal, shock, guilt and extreme abandonment, plus all the other shitty stuff that arrives packaged with suicide, like an unwanted ‘buy one, get one free’ deal.
Suicide is such a taboo subject; barely anybody wants to talk about it. Suicide sits like a big, stinking, moth-eaten canvas bag, slung in one corner of the garage. Everyone knows it’s there, but they choose to walk right past, or, it is hidden, behind the cardboard box full of old school photos, a prom dress and the doll that you coveted so much as a kid, and just cannot bear to throw away.
Word of advice: Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.
I loved my Mum, she was beautiful and kind and passionate about the things she believed in – she was a fierce vegetarian long before it became cool and hip, and she encouraged me to be independent and free-thinking.
But she wasn’t perfect.
I guess she was beautifully imperfect.
And it was these imperfections that drove her to deal a pretty shitty card the day she took her own life.
Suicide sucks for everyone involved; for not only does it entail a myriad of painful and complicated grieving after the death, but because there is often a knotty chain of events prior to the death; an ominous grey cloud hovering over everyone’s head – sometimes it’s depression, or anxiety, or addiction, or any other type of mental distress traumatizing enough for the person affected to feel that the only way of coping with it all is to end their life.
My Mum suffered from depression.
Sometimes she was ok, sometimes she was not, and then other times she was really, totally not ok. I watched helplessly, as she slowly drowned in the murky depths of this brutal illness.
12 years on, I feel less helpless as I have been partnering up with Mind, a mental health charity, in order to assist others out there in coping and getting better.
In the UK, it’s not always easy to get help through the NHS (National Health Service), something my family can strongly attest. Mind is instrumental in making help more accessible, in a variety of ways. They also do a lot of educational work, raising awareness, eliminating the stigma connected to mental health problems in today’s society and encouraging people to speak out more. It’s important to talk, to not be ashamed, and be vocal about what’s eating at your soul.
I know that most of you reading this are aware of the fundraising I have already done for Mind. It all started, 3 years ago, when, as a complete running novice, I decided to take part in a 5K race. I huffed and puffed my way round the course and finished in 39 minutes. That night, I got drunk on a single glass of red wine and fell asleep at 8pm.
That 5k turned into a 10k race a year later and I kind of stuck with the running. Mainly because I realised that I lost a lot of weight and I could eat as much chocolate as I wanted, guilt free.
One day though, my attitude to running completely changed. I saw an advertisement for a local half marathon, and impulsively signed up for it. I consequently became obsessed with my running training schedule and would spend hours scouring fitness websites for top tips on the best running footwear, nutrition and the most effective running gait and carb-loading and hydrating and oh my god it doesn’t even matter just go out for a run already.
In the end, I made it. I finished my first half marathon. I couldn’t walk properly afterwards and spent the subsequent week believing I was dying from an illness, I felt that bad.
And yet despite of this, I still continued running because at some stage along the way I had become a runner, always looking for the next challenge. So here I am once again, and this time it’s bigger and better. Because shit’s got real.
Drum roll, please.
In 2012, I’ll be competing in 4 races in 4 cities across Europe!
Paris Half Marathon: 4 March, 2012
London Marathon: 22 April, 2012
Reykjavik Half Marathon: 18 August, 2012
Berlin Marathon: 30 September 2012
Training for the 4races4cities project is well underway, it’s pretty tough, but it’s so worth the pain. My Mum is always in the back of my mind. When I’m on the edge of giving up, I think of her and it motivates me to keep pushing on.
While I am preparing myself physically and mentally for this mission, I am reaching out to everyone out there to join me. Not necessarily for the races – that might be a bit much of me to ask of you – but hopefully by supporting the cause.
You can donate money directly by following this link that takes you to the official 4races4cities fundraising site:
You can also retweet, recommend, share this post on social networking sites, your own blogs and twitter accounts. You can talk about it to as many people as possible. Send it to friends, family and to those around you that have been, and are maybe still dealing, with experiences similar to the ones I described above.
You can follow my training updates on Twitter and Facebook:
If you have any questions, ideas or want to get more involved, please get in touch via email@example.com